So in To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus kills a mad dog. He does it with one shot.

Is there some more symbolism to this or is it just an event?


3 Answers 3


This scene is meant to reveal more about Atticus to Scout. When he kills the mad dog--and does so expertly, with one shot--it shows Scout that there is more to him than a lawyer and a father. He knows how to shoot and he's good at it.

“Take him, Mr. Finch.” Mr. Tate handed the rifle to Atticus; Jem and I nearly fainted.

This illustrates my point well; Jem and Scout have no idea about him, really. This also develops Atticus's character for the reader. He can shoot and he's good at it, but he hates to and he hasn't in thirty years. It can also be seen as a symbol for the entire Tom Robinson trial.

  • It also gives Scout a chance to show her growth. She persuades Jem to hush it up.
    – Mary
    Dec 12, 2020 at 1:17

It foreshadows the death of Ewell in a way:

  • When the dog, who has been around for a long time, becomes a real threat to the children, the shooting skills of Atticus, which haven't been seen for many years, reveals itself to deal with the threat.
  • When Bob Ewell, who also has been around for a long time, becomes a real threat to the children, Boo Radley, who hasn't been seen for many years, reveals himself to deal with the threat.

The mad dog has rabies which is a disease and that is why it's mad, Atticus quotes that "Maycomb's usual disease is racism." Therefore, the dog is symbolised as racism and Atticus is the only shot they have at killing this dog and he is the only shot at the Tom Robinson case and showing the town what real courage is. So if Atticus has an ability that can help the town and stop the 'disease' from spreading then he will and he tries.

  • Hi, welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. Can you quote any passages in the book that confirm that the dog or rabies or a rabid dog symbolise racism?
    – Tsundoku
    Mar 31, 2019 at 18:53
  • Your answer would also be greatly improved if you edited it to fix your spelling and apply correct capitalisation. As the Help Centre says, "We don't expect every answer to be perfect, but answers with correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar are easier to read. They also tend to get upvoted more frequently." For further guidance, take the LitSE Tour. :-) Apr 1, 2019 at 11:38

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